We don't know the full story behind the seven other student athletes up for the 2014 National High School Spirit Award, but the National Federation of State High School Associations made a solid choice in Zach Pickett, whose inspirational story first came to Prep Rally's attention this past November.
A budding swimming and water polo recruit, Pickett suffered a broken seventh vertebra just prior to his junior year at the Single Springs (Calif.) Ponderosa High in August 2012. He reportedly took a break from his lifeguarding duties to cool off when he accidentally struck a sandbar upon diving into a nearby lake.
His hopes of following older brother Ryan's path to a collegiate swimming scholarship seemingly dashed, Zach Pickett began the process of assimilating into his routine as a high school teenager. After three months of rehab, he returned to the pool to compete in two events for Ponderosa's swim team as a junior. He then won the 50-meter backstroke at the U.S. Paralympics Spring CanAm this past April.
Perhaps even more impressive, Pickett has participated on the Bruins' water polo team ever since. He is reportedly considered the only paraplegic student athlete currently competing in the grueling sport.
"I didn't want to play to set some precedent," Pickett told MaxPreps. "I just wanted to play because it's what I've always done. I wanted a sense of normalcy. And mostly I just wanted to be around my friends."
Pickett owns a 4.17 GPA and served as class president, so perhaps he's in line for a scholarship after all.